As we approach February, this is usually the part of the year when things start to stabilize in conference play. This is when the elite teams separate themselves from the pack, while some pretenders fall back into obscurity.
No doubt the Big Ten race is ramping up and it should be an exciting final month as we get set for March. So, here are this week’s Big Ten power rankings for you to peruse.
14. Penn State 13-7, 1-6
At least the Nittany Lions got their first win in conference play this past week. Too bad it came against another conference bottom-feeder in Rutgers.
13. Rutgers 10-11, 2-6
Since beating Wisconsin in thrilling fashion, the Scarlet Knights have dropped their last four games. Their game at home against Michigan State was postponed on Tuesday and will be made up on Thursday.
12. Northwestern 10-10, 1-6
Man has Northwestern been close to winning some of its games. It just can’t close and has lost its last three games by a combined five points. The Wildcats are looking the part of an improved team, but it’s not showing up in the standings.
11. Minnesota 13-8, 2-6
Although they lost their first five games in conference play, the Golden Gophers have now won two out of their last three and are most recently coming off a win against Illinois on Saturday. Minnesota has a pair of winnable games this week with a game at Penn State on Wednesday and then back home for a game vs. Nebraska on Saturday.
10. Illinois 13-8, 3-5
Injuries to Rayvonte Rice, Tracy Abrams and Aaron Cosby have ravaged the Illini, and they appear to be lost at the moment. Abrams has been out for the year and who knows when Rice and Cosby will be back. Perhaps Illinois can regroup when it hosts Penn State on Saturday.
9. Nebraska 12-8, 4-4
After winning three of their previous four games (including an impressive win over Michigan State), the Cornhuskers were stopped dead in their tracks by Michigan on Tuesday. A game on the road against Minnesota on Saturday will prove to be very important for Nebraska.
8. Purdue 12-8, 4-3
After winning their first two Big Ten games, the Boilermakers have since alternated wins and losses and cannot get into a steady groove. Still, at 4-3 in the conference it could be a lot worse and their win over Iowa on Saturday was huge for their resume.
7. Michigan 13-8, 6-3
It hasn’t been all that bad for the Wolverines since losing Caris LeVert. They have won two games (Rutgers and Nebraska) without LeVert, while taking Wisconsin to overtime on Saturday. Their intra-state affair at Michigan State on Sunday should be compelling TV.
6. Michigan State 13-7, 4-3
Speaking of the Spartans, they find themselves in a mini-rut while losing two out of their last three while only beating Penn State in that time. Michigan State will certainly want to grab some momentum and beat Rutgers on Thursday (postponed from Tuesday) before hosting the Wolverines.
5. Ohio State 16-5, 4-3
The Buckeyes win over Indiana this past week was huge for reasons I wrote about here. Ohio State needs more impressive wins in the conference if it wants to really open some eyes, and that chance will come on Thursday when the Buckeyes host Maryland.
4. Iowa 13-7, 4-3
Iowa has dropped its last two games on the road to Wisconsin and Purdue, but it did sweep Ohio State, which gets it the four spot here ahead of the Buckeyes for now at least. A huge game awaits Iowa as it gets set to host Wisconsin on Saturday.
3. Indiana 15-5, 5-2
Prior to losing to Ohio State on Sunday, the Hoosiers had ripped off four straight wins. They are still exceeding expectations and look like they’ll be contenders until the end. They’ll face a tough test, though, on the road at Purdue on Wednesday.
2. Maryland 18-3, 6-2
The Terrapins are not coming off the easiest of weeks. They got crushed by Indiana last Thursday and absolutely stole one at the buzzer against Northwestern on Sunday. Maryland gets right back into the fire with a game at Ohio State on Thursday.
1. Wisconsin 18-2, 6-1
Since losing to Rutgers, the Badgers have gone about their business with three wins in a row, including a gutsy win over Michigan on the road on Saturday. We’ll see if Wisconsin has that road resiliency when it faces Iowa on Saturday.